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Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Films

by Pip Chodorov

Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Films


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In this film, Pip Chodorov offers a joyous overview of an important branch of modern art. But as his title furtively acknowledges in the opening credits, this tour is  "story", not really a "history" of its subject.

FEATURING: Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Pip Chodorov, Stephan Chodorov, Ken Jacobs, Peter Kubelka, Maurice Lemaitre, Len Lye, Jonas Mekas, John Mhiripiri, Nam June Paik, Hans Richter, MM Sera, Michael Snow, Stan Vanderbreek, Andy Warhol. - with excerpts from their works.

The definitive history of experimental film in the 20th century cannot yet be written. While there may be consensus that moving images have a place in the history of art, determining the historical significance of particular films is more complex. Even the definitionof experimental film remains problematic and its status in the world of cinema marginal.

Although FREE RADICALS looks back to the first film artists working in Europe earlier in the century, at its centre is exactly the same time and place that "Movie Journal" chronicles - New York in the sixties.Through his father's work as a producer of documentaries for educational television, Chodorov, while still a child, had a personal connection to the artists featured.

Hans Richter - Filmstudie, Ghosts Before Breakfast
Maya Deren - Meshes of the Afternoon
Jonas Mekas - Cassis, Hare Krishna
Len Lye - A Colour Box, Particles in Space
Stan Vanderbreek - Symmetricks, Science Friction

"Here is a film that shines with its cast: Hans Richter, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Maurice Lemaitre and other “star” experimental filmmakers (mostly americans, up through the ‘70s) parade in majesty. They do so with no false modesty (their candidness and confidence are rather surprising, sometimes humorous), and with a clear pleasure at having their turn in front of the camera, to be projected and listened to."  -LES CAHIERS DU CINÉMA

"Touching and personal, this documentary will serve as a guide for all those who are touched by the desire to plunge into this era, taking them for a journey. The “free radicals” of the title are artists that, beginning in the 1920’s and through the 1970’s, have pushed cinema toward experimental visual poetry. [...] The film pays worthy homage to this fringe of cin- ema, too often reduced to a hermetic citadel rather than a space open to the winds, where chance, a do-it-yourself ethic, and humor have often played a large role."  - LE MONDE

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